Bollywood actor Randeep Hooda drew sharp criticism for cheering along even as another celebrity, Virender Sehwag, questionably trolled Delhi University’s student Gurmeher Kaur on Twitter.

Kaur, who started (and has just withdrawn) a campaign #studentsagainstABVP on social media, was subjected to massive trolling after users cherry-picked one of the frames from a video she posted last year that advocated peace between Pakistan and India. 

This frame, which had Gurmeher holding a placard saying ‘Pakistan did not kill my dad, war killed him’ was taken out and turned into memes like, ‘ABVP didn’t beat up anyone, scuffle did’ or ‘Hitler did not kill jews, gas did’.

While the ‘nationalists’ were having fun at Kaur’s expense, Sehwag jumped into the scene with one of his attempts at a joke and his tweet was retweeted with praise from Randeep Hooda.

Two celebrities, who enjoy massive social media influence, trolling a relatively unknown 20-year-old by misusing a past image of hers didn’t go down with many, who rightly called out the two for this far-from-graceful act. Hooda ended up earning more brickbats than Sehwag perhaps because he tried hitting back at most of the critics. 

A closer look at the attack on Hooda, however, reveals something disturbing. 

Given that he was being slammed for exposing a young, vulnerable girl to maniacal ‘nationalist’ trolls, his ‘liberal’ critics answered by indulging in not-so-ideal behaviour themselves.

They insulted the leading ladies of his films. Because you know, to abuse a man, you must abuse the women he is associated with

They unnecessarily dragged in his mother

Randeep’s mother Asha Hooda is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Why it needs to be linked to Randeep’s views on Kaur and Sehwag’s tweet, isn’t clear. But it was:

They demeaned his profession…

Because on days who aren’t slamming the actors for not speaking up, you should show them their place when they do

…and the insult was rightly called out

They demeaned his roots and insulted all of Haryana

This stereotyping was rightly objected to by other Haryana celebrities like sportspeople Geeta and Babita Phogat

As is evident from the discourse, the criticism of Hooda featured everything from sexism, misogyny, gross stereotyping and personal attacks. 

And when it comes from people who claim to stand for the cause of free speech, it is very worrying indeed.